JOHN KIRKMORRIS RADIO PLAYS
John Kirkmorris is one of the enigmas of radio drama, the author of
nearly forty plays broadcast in the 1970s and 1980s, but now virtually
forgotten (except perhaps by grateful listeners with accurate
memories). He won a Giles Cooper award for COXCOMB, a theatrical
piece set in the dressing room of a leading actor. This may be found
in BEST RADIO PLAYS OF 1979, published by Methuen in 1980. Otherwise,
only three of his plays are known to us: two thrillers, DEADWEIGHT
(1975) and A FULL ACCOUNT (1981), and a drama of the Great War, THE
INVESTITURE (1978). All three are excellent, the thrillers clever
and absorbing; the war play bitter and poignant.
DEADWEIGHT has the advantage of a sterling performance by Clive Swift as
Walsh, an ex-policeman turned private detective, shrewd but modest,
with a gift for handling people. He investigates a supposed suicide
by hanging - but the dead man suffered from vertigo, so how did he
climb the ladderto throw the rope over the beam? He didn't, of course-
there's more to it than that, as Walsh establishes with the help of the
dead man's prickly daughter and a co-operative senior policeman.
A FULL ACCOUNT is set on a rural estate, where the squire is found shot
dead in the woods. It's both a mystery and an examination of personal
relations among the dead man's immediate circle. At the centre is an
estate agent, an impressive man played with authority by Jeffry
Wickham. The truth of the matter is long delayed, emerging gradually
from the interaction of sharply drawn characters, including those of the
two investigating policemen. The play is subtle, arresting and
satisfying - and finally we get the full account.
THE INVESTITURE concerns an intelligent, honourable man caught in the
toils of the Great War, the horros of which are austerely and economically
suggested. His personal life fails him and the 'mincing machine' of the
war treats him with contempt, despite the D.S.O he receives from
George V. Offered a chance of escape, he comes near to taking it,
but circumstances and his moral code combine to return him to the
trenches. The play enlists our heartfelt sympathy for its protagonist, whose
bewildered decency and bitter confusion are beautifully conveyed by
On the evidence of these plays John Kirkmorris is deserving of serious
consideration and a revival of interest in his work. For that to
happen, we have to hear it. BBC-7? Yes, please.
Barry Pike, 2003
Note from RB: only 3 of his plays seem to have been archived by the BBC. These are :-
"Dancing Dolly", "Find Tony and " Uncle Moon". Many more of his plays have been located by VRPCC since the above piece was written.
JOHN KIRKMORRIS RADIO PLAYS:
14.08.71 Threepenny Joey 75m
09.10.71 The Reckoning 60m
18.11.72 Hungarian Wheat 60m r. 23.3.77
21.05.73 Saxons and Strangers r.19.10.75
02.06.73 Bloodlines* 60m r. 4.8.76
28.07.73 Unquiet Hill*
09.02.74 Find Tony (SNT)
02.03.74 The healing Arts 60m
03.04.74 Conservatory Tea 30m r. 26.6.76
27.04.74 The Light Thread of Summer 60m
10.07.74 Just One More Time 30m
10.03.75 Westerman Flat*
25.06.75 Five Little Flowers*
17.09.75 Gooseberry 60m
20.09.75 Marnie (Winston Graham, dram)
10.11.75 A Sabbatical
13.12.75 Deadweight* (SNT)
19.05.76 Death of a Pig* 60m
21.10.60 Monk 60m r. 10.3.78
02.02.77 Caring Incorporated 60m
19.04.78 Mushrooms and Serpents 45m r.9.7.79
05.05.78 Vicki 60m r.10.11.79
23.09 78 Janus (SNT)
13.11.78 The Investiture*
27.02.79 Coxcomb 30m
23.03.79 Uncle Moon 60m
18.11.79 Dancing Dolly 75m
29.12.79 Wilaya 7* (SNT)
25.07.81 A Full Account* (SNT)
16.12.81 Turret before Sunset 45m
10.02.83 The War for Chantry Fields* 60m
11.06.83 Two on a balcony 30m
08.11.83 August Rose 60m
31.05.84 Rimer in Residence 60m
08.12.84 Intimations of a Raid* (SNT)
26.02.86 By a Roman Road 45m r. 10.6.87
11.07.87 Humanity Farm (SNT)
01.02.90 Ways and Means* 60m
Asterisked items exist in VRPCC collections
-compiled by Barry Pike
NOTES ON SOME OF THE PLAYS
JUST ONE MORE TIME....1974
with John Rowe, Joan Matheson, Elizabeth Proud and Sion Probert.
10 July 1974, 11:30 - Thirty Minute Theatre.
In a quiet bar in a seaside resort at the end of the season, the
members of a band argue about their future.
By Winston Graham [published 1961]. Adapted for radio by John Kirkmorris. Broadcast 20th September 1975, Saturday Night Theatre. The stunning blonde Marnie Elmer poses as a secretary in order to steal from her employers and fund her mother's existence in Torquay.
Mrs Denby..........Anne Jameson
Mrs Leonard......Katherine Parr
Mrs Rutland..........Maddi Hedd
With Susan Denny.
Produced by Richard Wortley.
DEATH OF A PIG....1976
60m. Two elderly sisters living on a smallholding; one runs it and the other watches.
BBC R4; rebroadcast by NPR 'Earplay', USA, 3 May 78: "Kirkmorris lives in Sussex, England, and wrote his first radio play in 1970". With Elizabeth Spriggs, Avril Elgar, Malcolm Reed, David Graham, Peter Craze, Douglas Blackwell."
WILAYA 7 ....1979
By John Kirkmorris. Saturday Night Theatre, 29 Dec 79; 8.30 pm. Rpt. Afternoon Theatre, 28 January 1980 and 12 April 1981.
As the Algerian War winds down in 1962, Captain Leger is chosen for a dangerous, unarmed mission to escort a French emissary into hostile territory. Cast: Michael Jayston [Captain Leger], Caroline Blakiston [Nadia Destouches], Patrick Troughton [Colonel Fer], John Bott [The General], Jane Wenham [CÚcile], David Daker [Picquot] and Michael N. Harbour [Rossy].
With Rod Beacham, Philip Voss, Valerie Sarruf, Elizabeth Rider, John Church, John Bull and Michael McStay. Directed by Cherry Cookson.
Intimations of a Raid....1984
8 Dec 84; SNT with Bill Wallis and Angela Phillips; directed in Bristol by Shaun McLaughlin.
A rumour about the takeover of a privately held industrial firm is
published. Such a thing shouldn't be possible, but are all the
principal shareholders playing for the same side? (GL)
WAYS AND MEANS....1990
Produced by Andy Jordan. 1 Feb 1990, afternoon play.
Victor, successful estate agent and local councillor, is on the make,
but someone shops him to the D.T.I.
Chris EMMETT ...............Victor Wicks
Bill WALLIS ................Densby Gurd
Caroline GRUBER ............Alison Wicks
Donald GEE .................Stebbins
Anna CROPPER ...............Stone
Ian TARGETT ................Neville Jolly
Hetty BAYNES ...............Reba Knutt
Denise BRIARS ..............Bella Crockmore
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website.
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